McCain on Education at the Urban League

Jazz Shaw:

Nowhere are the limitations of conventional thinking any more apparent than in education policy. After decades of hearing the same big promises from the public education establishment, and seeing the same poor results, it is surely time to shake off old ways and to demand new reforms. That isn’t just my opinion; it is the conviction of parents in poor neighborhoods across this nation who want better lives for their children.
Just ask the families in New Orleans who will soon have the chance to remove their sons and daughters from failing schools, and enroll them instead in a school-choice scholarship program. That program in Louisiana was proposed by Democratic state legislators and signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal. Just three years after Katrina, they are bringing real hope to poor neighborhoods, and showing how much can be achieved when both parties work together for real reform. Or ask parents in the disadvantaged neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. whether they want more choices in education. The District’s Opportunity Scholarship program serves more than 1,900 boys and girls from families with an average income of 23,000 dollars a year. And more than 7,000 more families have applied for that program. What they all have in common is the desire to get their kids into a better school.
Democrats in Congress, including my opponent, oppose the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. In remarks to the American Federation of Teachers last month, Senator Obama dismissed public support for private school vouchers for low-income Americans as, “tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice.” All of that went over well with the teachers union, but where does it leave families and their children who are stuck in failing schools?

Beth Fouhy:

John McCain, the father of private school students, criticized Democratic rival Barack Obama on Friday for choosing private over public school for his kids.
The difference, according to the Arizona Republican, is that he — not Obama — favors vouchers that give parents more school choices.
“Everybody should have the same choice Cindy and I and Sen. Obama did,” McCain told the National Urban League, an influential black organization that Obama will address on Saturday.

Exceptions Boost Local & Statewide School Ratings (Texas)

Laurie Fox, Holly Hacker & Terrence Stutz:

More schools from North Texas and across the state improved their annual performance ratings this year helped by higher student test scores and, in many cases, special exceptions from the state.
A Texas Education Agency report Friday showed a slight decline in the number of school districts and campuses that were rated academically unacceptable, the state equivalent of an F.
Most of those were tripped up by poor showings in science and math on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, state officials said.
The number of schools getting the highest marks jumped from a year ago. Statewide, 996 out of more than 7,500 campuses – a record number – were rated exemplary, which is equal to an A. In North Texas, 260 schools hit that mark, up from 184 last year.
Three area districts – Highland Park, Carroll and Lovejoy – were named exemplary overall.

2008 Streetball & Block Party next Saturday August 9th at Penn Park; 12 noon to 7 pm

Via a Johnny Winston, Jr. email:

The Johnny Winston, Jr. 2008 Streetball and Block Party will be held on Saturday August 9th from 12 noon to 7:00 p.m. at Penn Park (South Madison – Corner of Fisher and Buick Street). “Streetball” is a full court, “5 on 5” Adult Men’s Basketball tournament featuring some of the best basketball players in the City of Madison, Milwaukee, Beloit, Rockford and other cities. The rain date for basketball games only is Sunday August 10th.
The “block party” activities for youth and families include: old and new school music by D.J. Double D and Speakerboxx DJ’s; funk and soul music by the Rick Flowers Band, youth drill and dance team competition, free bingo sponsored by DeJope Gaming; face painting and youth activities sponsored by Madison School and Community Recreation, YMCA of Dane County, Dane County Neighborhood Intervention Program; The Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, the Madison Children’s Museum, pony rides by “Big Bill and Little Joe” and more. This event includes information booths and vendors selling a variety of foods and other items.
This is a safe, family event that has taken the place of the “South Madison Block Party.” The Madison Police Department and other neighborhood groups are supporting this as a positive activity for the South Madison community. Over the past seven years, $10,000 has been donated to charitable programs that benefit South Madison and support education such as the Boys & Girls Club and the Southside Raiders Youth Football and Cheerleading Teams.
In all, this event will provide a wonderful organized activity for neighborhood residents to enjoy this summer. If you have any questions, would like to volunteer or discuss any further details, please feel free to call (608) 347-9715; e-mail at: or Hope to see you there!
Please feel free to forward this information to other interested persons or organizations.

Eric Hainstock: Free at Last
Prison may be the best thing that ever happened to Eric Hainstock

Bill Lueders:

Eric Hainstock’s first letter to Isthmus, dated April 15, 2008, got right to the point: “When I was 15 years old I shot my high school principal. I never meant for this to happen. He grabbed me from behind and I got scared. I was already pretty stressed, so that freaked me out even more. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming Mr. Klang for grabbing me. But I am blaming him, the teachers, social services and the school as a whole for never listening to me…. No one ever listened.”
Like other communications to follow, the letter is a plaintive appeal for understanding, with a heavy dollop of self-pity. “No one ever listened”? Perhaps it felt that way to Hainstock.
“I want my story told,” wrote Hainstock, now 17, who picked Isthmus on the recommendation of his “celly,” a former Madison resident. “I want all the social service agencies to listen, the schools, parents all over the state.” He pegged his purpose as altruistic — to make sure no one else would ever have to “live in the hell that I did.” (Quotations from Hainstock’s letters have been edited for spelling and style.)

Externalities in the Classroom: How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone’s Kids

Justin Wolfers
Many teachers believe that a “few bad apples” can spoil a whole classroom, reducing the learning of everyone in the room. While this is part of the folk wisdom of teaching, it has been surprisingly difficult to find these effects in the data.
But a very convincing new paper, by Scott Carrell of U.C. Davis and Mark Hoekstra of U.Pitt, “Externalities in the Classroom: How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone’s Kids” (available here), suggests that these effects can be pretty big.
The real difficulty in this style of research is to find a useful proxy for whether or not a classroom is affected by a disruptive student. Previously researchers have used indicators like whether a student has low standardized test scores, but as any teacher knows, the under-performing kids may not be the disruptive ones. And if you analyze only a weak statistical proxy for classroom disruption, you get weak estimates, even when the true effects are large.
The truly innovative part of the Carrell and Hoekstra study begins with their search for potentially disruptive kids: they looked for those coming from particularly difficult family situations. In particular, they combed through court records and linked every domestic violence charge in Alachua County, Florida to the county schooling records of kids living in those households.
It’s a sad story: nearly 5 percent of the kids in their sample could be linked to a household with a reported domestic violence incident. (And given under-reporting, the true number may be much larger.)
The costs of this dysfunction are even more profound. Kids exposed to domestic violence definitely do have lower reading and math scores and greater disciplinary problems. But the effects of this dysfunction are not limited to the direct victims of this violence: kids exposed to kids exposed to domestic violence also have lower test scores and more disciplinary infractions.

Continue reading Externalities in the Classroom: How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone’s Kids

31 Travel Scholarships, Fellowships, and Grants to Fund Your Next Trip Abroad

Emma Jacobs:

Do your have a worthwhile project or field of study that involves traveling? If so, consider having your travels funded through a grant, fellowship, or travel scholarship.
Begin by contemplating where you want to go and potential projects you could build around those destinations. (Or vice versa.) Always wondered how sustainable agriculture works in Guam? How about local conservation practices in Central America? Once you have a clear vision of a travel / research project, begin looking for funding possibilities that give you the most freedom to pursue your goals.
When applying, take advantage of the resources and support systems you have. Your school, present or past, will have an adviser who can help you navigate the application process.

What Happens from Elementary to Middle School?

Ray Cox:

As we have read, the Accountability Ratings have been published and Kent mentioned something that troubles me as a middle school teacher. We have a ton of elementary schools with Recognized and Exemplary ratings but the number of middle schools with similar ratings is almost nil.
I’m not placing the blame or accusing anyone of anything in this post but I’m just befuddled as to why these kids move from an elementary school with such high marks and the middle school they go to can only scrounge up an “acceptable” rating.

On Ted Widerski

Jordan Ellenberg:

I didn’t know Ted very well. I met him last year, when I spoke at the Middle School Math Fest he organized in Madison. I expected to lecture to a dozen or so overachieving and dutiful students — instead, I found the CUNA cafeteria packed with close to a hundred pre-teens, still fizzy and enthusiastic after a full morning of math activities led by an equally energetic cadre of teachers and high school students from Madison East. And Ted, fizzier if possible than the pre-teens themselves, at the center of it all. Very few people have the drive and know-how even to put together an event like this, let alone to make it such a success. Madison was lucky to have somebody like Ted helping young students find joy in math; from the Cap Times article linked above, it sounds like the students who learned from Ted in the classroom were pretty lucky too.

Via Isthmus.

To Speak Out Against the City’s School System, One Man Turns to the Power of Parody

Jennifer Medina:

Nearly 50 New York City school principals were fired immediately in what Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein declared a “warning shot across the bow.” Blackwater USA was awarded a no-bid contract to take over school security. And a national education foundation offered a $100 million endowment to any university that established a degree in “high-stakes test-taking.”
Those satirical news items, which appear on an education blog, are always slightly off-kilter, but several have seemed believable enough to prompt inquiries to the Education Department’s headquarters from parents and journalism students asking to follow up on a story they saw elsewhere.
“The best part is when people can’t distinguish their reality from the reality that is made up,” said Gary Babad, the writer of dozens of mock news items dealing with the Education Department. “I think of it as a kind of therapy and my form of quiet dissent. And it’s a stress reliever.”

Camp Codependence

A response to last week’s NYT story on summer camps by Judy Warner.

I’m sure we all read, with equal parts disgust and delectation, The Times’ story last week on affluent parents who just can’t let go when their children abandon them for sleep-away camp.
In case you missed it, the article presented fathers and mothers so used to instant service that they call camp directors at all hours of the day and night to sound the alarm if they suspect Junior isn’t using sunscreen. It showcased “high-end” sleep-away camps that employ full-time “parent liaisons” just to handle such phone calls and e-mail traffic, “almost like a hotel concierge listening to a client’s needs,” as a camp consultant put it.

Continue reading Camp Codependence

Bypassing School Boundary Maps

Michael Alison Chandler:

Despite a court ruling this week that upheld the School Board’s decision to reshuffle high schools for hundreds of western Fairfax County students, many parents have found a way to bypass the new boundary map and send their children to campuses of their choice.
More than a third of the 226 rising freshmen who were to be added to the roster of South Lakes High School for the coming year have transferred to nearby high schools for curricular reasons, school system records showed. Most of the 85 students who left the Reston school applied to pursue Advanced Placement classes not offered at South Lakes High. By contrast, nine incoming freshmen transferred from the school last year for similar reasons.

Why teens drop out from Santa Clara County schools

Sharon Noguchi:

Gavin Neves needed a job. A Broadway High School student felt threatened in class. Margarita Craig got pregnant.
California high school students who drop out believe there’s a good reason to leave school. Even in complicated circumstances, the trigger point can often be summed up in one word. Fear. Poverty. Boredom. Failure. Addiction.
Though schools offer myriad programs to catch troubled teens, the dropout rate is higher than educators ever suspected. Data released last week suggests that 24 percent of teens drop out of high school, nearly double the previous estimate of 13 percent.
In Santa Clara County, the rate of students who drop out over a four-year period is 20.2 percent, less than the statewide figure, but still “ghastly,” according to Dan Moser, associate superintendent of the East Side Union High School District.
Struggling students cite a variety of pressures pushing them out of the school doors for good. Their stories suggest there will be no easy solution to solving the dropout crisis.

Future looking bleak for state education?

Victoria Camron:

The vast majority of low-achieving students in Colorado are not making enough progress to reach grade level in three years, according to growth model date the Colorado Department of Education released Tuesday.
Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien is optimistic the new information — which compares individual students’ academic growth to their academic peers over time — will help educators determine which strategies work and which don’t, she said.
“It’s about helping students get the education they need,” O’Brien said Tuesday when the Colorado Student Assessment Program test results were released at the Department of Education in Denver.